Is Abortion a Form of Human Sacrifice? (Ctd.)

Leo Walker responds to my previous post:

Thirteen is quite a lot of kids! No wonder your grandma was worn out. Yet these are choices that she made along with your grandpa. Even back in deepest darkest 19th century the connection between conjugal relations and children was understood. They made choices and, so far as your narrative illustrates, they accepted responsibility for those choices. Poverty is not the worst evil in the world, nor is it an impediment to joy, love, or any other virtue, though it makes some harder. You imply that your grandparents suffered unremitting misery and despair. Was there no love, joy, peace, sense of accomplishment, surprise, curiosity or triumph in their lives? I doubt that this would be true of them, or their children. If poverty is difficult to bear, should we then grant them sweet release by some form of murder under another name? I notice that the poor; I have known and lived among the poor who aspire to what passes for poverty in the USA; don’ t seem to be hungering for death. On the contrary, they often live more fearlessly and fully than so many who have more to defend. The Catholic position on the issue balances openness to receive the gift of children from God and a prudent stewardship of the procreative act. Planned parenthood, as it now constituted, is a repudiation of both of these principles. The hungry millions are the result of the sinful mis-allocation of resources. Justice consists not in murdering, sterilizing or otherwise outraging their lives, but in working to make God’s bounty available to them. Life is a greater good than material well being. Condemning to death those whose standard of living is suspected of not meeting some arbitrary standard set by the road-to-Hell-pavers is no mercy. Oh, and I might mention that arguing from a particular to a universal, which you do above, is a logical fallacy and any conclusion drawn from it is ipso facto false.

@Leo Walker: Referring to my great-grandmother’s 13 children, you write, “…these are choices that she made along with your [great]-grandpa.”

You make her sound like a modern woman who has voting rights and a real range of choices for her life. She was not and did not. She was poor and uneducated, powerless and voiceless. She lived in an intensely patriarchal culture where her life plans were laid out for her by men. Women’s educational and employment opportunities were restricted or non-existent, and they were cruelly shamed for making any effort to better their lives. These are just facts, not generalizations off a particular case history.

I recognize that many women of that era were happy with their lot, but my point is that those who were not did not have any choice. Choice became so important to American women that they were finally willing to fight for it. Their crowning achievement was passage of the 19th Amendment, giving them the right to vote. From there to here (via Roe v. Wade) is an unfolding story of liberation and greater choice. As long as women have the same choices as men do, they will continue to want control over their bodies and their reproductive cycles.

A severely malnourished child lies down after being admitted to Banadir Hospital in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on July 26, 2011. AFP PHOTO/ Mustafa ABDI

To your point about poverty, I would just reiterate that overpopulation leads to social and ecological collapse. Those affected by extreme poverty may not want to die, but often they will kill others over scarce resources. Again, this is just an empirical fact. The earth’s resources are not inexhaustible, and the goal of equitable and efficient distribution may be a chimera. Water, for example, is plentiful but extremely hard to transport in the quantities needed to sustain populations in areas affected by drought. “Prudent stewardship of the procreative act” (your words) must be coupled with—or even guided by—prudent stewardship of resources. Stewardship does not mean “maximizing births.” It may require limiting them, for its goal must always be to bring supply and demand into balance.

Abdifatah Hassan who is eleven months old and suffers from severe malnutrition lies on a cot at a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontiers in the biggest refugee camp in the world in Dadaab on July 4, 2011. AFP PHOTO/Roberto SCHMIDT

You write, “The hungry millions are the result of the sinful mis-allocation of resources.” If that is true, then let’s get the supply chains in good working order before encouraging people to have more and more children in areas susceptible to drought and famine. In 2011, 12 million people living in the horn of Africa were in urgent need of food and water. The U.N. estimates that six million children die of malnutrition every year, worldwide.

Finally, I’d like to call out your straw man. I am not advocating abortion, the murder of poor people, or forced sterilization. I am advocating family planning and education around reproductive issues so that women can, together with their husbands, make informed choices. These choices should include contraception, of course, because contraception decreases the likelihood that a woman will seek an abortion, licit or illicit. Abortions are not a desirable outcome, but when they occur (as they will), they should be performed under optimal medical conditions to protect the health of the mother.

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